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Teaching with Technology

Copyright © Adam Waxler

Clearly, the recent technological advancements in our society have tremendous potential benefits in the classroom.  However, training for both student and teacher is essential for telecommunications to be more than simply replacing written text on paper with written text on a computer screen.  Odvard Dyrli and Daniel Kinnaman, in their article, “Teaching Effectively With Telecommunications”, explain how telecommunications can make for more effective teaching and increase student learning.

As Dyrli and Kinnaman explain, telecommunications can make what teachers already do even better.  First of all, with links provided on the web, students are provided with enormous amounts of content.  Furthermore, both the information consumed as well as the information produced can now be distributed across global networks, not just confined to the classroom.  This leads to one of the key benefits of online projects, that students will be eager to edit their work knowing that it may be read half way across the world.

However, Dyrli and Kinnaman explain that the enormous amount of information on the Internet is also one of the biggest challenges.  Not only is the amount of information tremendous, but anyone can post information online and search engines will turn up papers written by middle school students just as easily as papers written by graduate students.  Therefore, it is extremely important that students be able to evaluate the quality of web sites.  As pointed out by many experts in telecommunications, this evaluation process teaches students higher-order thinking skills that can be used in other lessons and projects as well.

Due to the time constraints in education it is crucial to teach efficiently with telecommunications, “managing the practical aspects” in order to make the most of “online time”.  To accomplish this, much of the tools students need to work with technology can be taught off the computer.  For example, students need to be taught where to find information and how to properly use search engines, both of which can and should be explained before going onto the computer.  Furthermore, students need to learn when using telecommunications makes sense and when it does not.  There are simply times when information can be gotten more efficiently offline than online.  Also, Dyrli and Kinnaman point out that time can be used more efficiently when students are taught to document their online experiences and keep track of important sites they may want to revisit.

Dyrli and Kinnaman explain that while teaching these computer skills is necessary and although they may seem overwhelming, they are manageable as long as teachers use certain strategies.  For example, providing free unstructured time when introducing new online skills, giving instruction in “bite-size” chunks, making instruction a series of concrete steps, introducing activities and planning strategies offline, and making sure discussion time and work time are kept separate.  While many of these practices are used with or without technology, Dyrli and Kinnaman emphasize their importance in the world of telecommunications in order to get the most out of technology in the classroom.

However, in order to achieve the full potential of telecommunications, teachers must also have students evaluate web sites, allow students time to discuss and answer questions on their own, and encourage students to continue work out of the classroom.  When these things are done effectively, teachers can use technology in the classroom to its’ fullest potential while at the same time fight off every educator’s enemy- TIME.

Adam Waxler is a middle school social studies teacher, teacher mentor, and the author of eTeach: A Teacher Resource for Learning the Strategies of Master Teachers. Adam is also the editor and publisher of The Teaching Teacher’s Newsletter. For more information about his ebook or to sign up for your free monthly newsletter log onto: